WHILE the Russians, Chinese and Lebanese are being censured for their disappointing stances on the crisis in Syria, nobody has dared to criticize the Jordanians, the closest neighbors of Syria, on whose borders Syrians are being killed and massacred.
The situation in Syria will have its impact on the two neighbors — Jordan and Turkey — regardless of their attitude toward the Syrian crisis. The situation has become more perilous as the two countries have kept their borders partly closed and adopted the ostrich policy of not wishing to see the danger hoping it may pass away if not seen. The journey from the Jordanian borders to Damascus by car takes about an hour, with the distance not being more than 100 kilometers. This shows that the impact of the Syrian situation on Jordan and the danger it represents are sizable.
The bordering countries will not be safe from what is happening in Syria if they continue to wait for the regime to collapse or the revolution to die. At the outset of the crisis, the Turks raised everyone's expectations by censuring the crimes of the Assad regime, but, as is their habit, were contented only with rhetoric. Jordan, which used to have a say in any political matter, like what happened in Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon, kept mum on what is going on in its northern neighbor. Jordan kept silent although the shelling and murders in Deraa were loudly heard on the side of the Jordanian borders. The silence of Jordan is more poignant than its talk.
The silence speaks volumes. Here I am trying to understand the political aloofness of Jordan vis-à-vis the precarious situation in Syria. Jordan was, and still is, fearing the regime in Syria, because it is well aware that the Syrian regime would not shy away from creating chaos in Jordan by sending its militias there. Syria may also mobilize some opposing elements in Jordan who are still keeping quiet. However, we are aware that the overwhelming majority of the Jordanians are with the Syrian people. Jordan may be silent, because it is not very much excited by the imminent downfall of the regime — despite the permanent antipathy between the two countries — out of fear that if extremist religious groups came to power in Syria, they might flare up the Jordanian arena.
We will not ask a country with limited resources, like Jordan, to do more than it can bear. However, the fears expressed above are no justification for Jordan's indifference toward the incidents in Syria. If Jordan opts to remain neutral, it will not have any positive influence on the future of Syria. Nevertheless, by this neutral stance, Jordan is in fact defending its own interests as well as adopting a correct political and ethical attitude.
I do not want Jordan to do what other major bordering countries, like Turkey, refused to do — i.e. get involved in fight with the Syrian regime. It should, however, support the Syrian people through its common borders.
The Jordanians gave the Syrian regime more than a year to reform itself, but it failed. The battle has now reached the heart of Damascus. The regime is moving its heavy military machines to the capital city for the upcoming battles. It has positioned its forces in a number of strategic locations including Al-Abbasiyah soccer stadium. Indicators are that the end of the current year will be the end of the regime. If it lives longer it will be losing control over most of the country. The Assad regime has committed a number of mistakes that were inherent in its nature. Due to its military crackdown and repression, the regime has been unable to reconcile with its people. In his last speech, President Bashar Assad did not mention the word "reconciliation" without preceding it with a big “NO.”
Where does Jordan stand in respect of what is happening and what will take place in Syria?
Jordan played a positive role in the Iraqi crisis. It made Amman an abode for members of the peaceful Iraqi opposition. It also kept its roads open for Iraqis who escaped from Saddam's supporters during the siege of Iraq. Amman was the main political and economic lung for Baghdad before and after its downfall.
We know that Jordan has the power to do anything that can lead to the toppling of the regime or keep it going. Jordan does not want to get involved in Syrian politics, but the Jordanians can move in order to play an influential humanitarian role. The Assad regime is besieging hundreds of thousands of Syrians and left them with no access to the world to get food and medicines. The regime has miserably failed to stop the spread of revolution against it. It is only aggravating the tragedy and it will not be able to stop the process of change in Syria.
On the other side, Jordan will not be threatened by what might happen in Damascus more than what it has suffered during the past over 40 years due to the existence of the Syrian regime. Nobody believes that Jordan is afraid about its government. Jordan has a regime that is not only legitimate but also moderate, flexible and tolerant. However, the danger may be real against Jordan in three cases: If the situation in Syria develops into a civil war due to lack of an acceptable solution, if extremists come to power in Damascus, or if the country gets divided into sovereign states. I did not mention the possibility of the regime remaining in power, because this is out of question judging by what is happening now. Something of the regime may remain in case of a civil war or the division of the country. Jordan cannot do anything to prevent these cases, and it will suffer from their consequences. For this reason, a positive attitude of Jordan toward the ongoing crisis in Syria will have good results for it and for Syria as well in the future. However, leaving matters as they are now will be a great threat to its interests. Jordan should differentiate between the present situation in Syria and what happened in Iraq, which was ruled by the strongest army in the world. Despite their sufferings, the Americans ruled the entire country. There were no famines or collapses in Iraq when the Americans were there. The crisis in Iraq was not exported to Jordan or any other neighboring country. The situation in Syria is another story. In case the central power was weakened or overthrown, no one would be able to protect the neighboring countries from the lava of the Syrian volcano. If the neighbors did not assist, Syria might become another Somalia.
The Syrian opponents and escapees do appreciate the hospitality of Jordan but strongly believe that Jordan's helping hand should be further stretched.